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Re: free and open source OS and personal computing


> After the news that Canonical is abandoning unity the following became clear to me. Free and open source OS on personal computing devices will never became a success.

Depends on how you define “success”. If “success” is synonymous with “making a profit”, you are probably mostly right. It’s hard to create a business model around open source. There are a few companies who’ve managed to do it but, by and large, something that is available free of charge, pretty much be definition, has no monetary value. So, if I want to make a business out of open source, I have to find some way to add value, otherwise no-one will buy what I’m selling.

But there are other measures of “success”. For example, if we were to count all the installed systems world-wide that intrinsically rely on some open source components to function, I suspect we’d find that the open source “participation rate" is close to 100%. Open source has indeed changed the computing landscape in a fundamental and dramatic way, because it has enabled closed source software to be developed so much more cheaply and efficiently.

> Only technical users and nerds benefit from free and open source OS.

I strongly disagree with that. There are tons of companies that make a very good living out of software that is largely built on top of LGPL open source. It’s not that long ago that companies had to pay per developer seat for a compiler, for example. But, what’s behind that isn’t so much that the source is open, but that it doesn’t cost anything. The argument that open source is a safer choice because you get the source code is mostly a red herring. If I’m a vendor of accounting software, the source code for gcc does me no good whatsoever because, if there is a bug in gcc, I’ll have neither the skills nor the inclination to learn enough about how gcc works to fix a bug or add a feature.

Ordinary people benefit from open source every day. The router in my home runs some open source. My TV does. My solar system does. Virtually ever web server on the planet does. Etc, etc. And one of the reasons why these devices are as cheap as they are is that the vendors didn’t have to spend years of research and development to create all that code themselves.